Greta Comes to Live with Us

April 7, 2009

A month since Joey died, and  we have adopted another greyhound: Greta. I was so bereft during the day, I started looking at the greyhound rescue web sites and saw this little girl dog who needed people like us. The description on the rescue site said she needed a quiet home as an only dog, and time and patience to become a happy dog.

When we met her, we knew we had to take her. Greta was one of 17 greyhounds who were kept in cages where they couldn’t stand up or move around, in a windowless shed; and were only let out for a few minutes each day. It was dark and cold and she was in there for nearly two years. Then the rescue people got her.

She was afraid of men especially, but she was timid of everyone and fearful of other dogs. She was in poor health and needed to be fed properly. She had to learn how to walk on grass because she had never seen grass before. (Since we’ve had her, I’ve become positive that she was hit with a stick or cane, because anything that narrow cylindrical shape, even a chew treat, frightens her. We have to put the treat on her cushion and let her pick it up. If we hold it out, she runs away.)

After one week now, Greta is comfortable with us, and with my friend Leonie and her son Justin, who is our regular dog sitter. (They went with us when we went to meet Greta at the rescue kennels.) But she’s still fearful anytime we move too fast, or come back into the room too suddenly. She looks hard and gets into the submissive position until she’s sure it’s me or Ian. At first, when we came downstairs in the morning (she slept on the couch the first few nights), she took several seconds to recognize us, but then her tail wagged like crazy and she came to say hello. She’s more trusting now, even after only a week, but it will take time for her to be completely secure.

I had to teach her how to do the stairs, following the instructions in my book about greyhounds. It took only two trips up and down before she learned to do them on her own, so now she has the freedom of the whole house to sniff and learn. We leave the sliding glass door in the living room open as much as possible so she can  go out into the back garden whenever she wants to. All this space is a little disorienting for her, since she’s been penned or kenneled all her life, but she needs to get used to being in a free environment. So we just leave everything open for her as much as possible, and let her adjust in her own time. She needs a long adjustment time, to establish a routine here and to know it’s her home.

She’s starved for touch and will sit on the sofa or the bed and ask to be cuddled for literally hours at a time. At night when we’re watching TV or sitting and reading, she’s right next to us and stroking her is automatic now. But she is already showing a little bit of independence, and even some trust. She goes to the sofa or the bed on her own now, whereas she followed us everywhere the first couple of days.

Greta is a petite greyhound, much smaller than Joey. She’s black, with hundreds of white speckles. She has a very sweet face, but the sadness in her eyes will take time to go away.

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